This discussion is intended
to be nontechnical. Although some of
the ideas may seem difficult, and nomenclature such as quarks, photons, or
gravitons may be unfamiliar, two important themes can be appreciated without a
mastery of the exotica of modern physics.
The first theme is that
today, about twelve-billion years after the bang (AB), we have a pretty good
idea what the universe was like earlier than one second AB,because we can understand the very early history of the universe by studying
the present universe. All around us we
see the evidence of what the universe was like at earlier times because the
early universe left behind something analogous to a fossil record for us to
examine. The fact that the universe is
comprehensible at all is astounding.
That we can speak with confidence about the universe one second AB is
one of the proudest intellectual accomplishments of our species.
The second theme that runs
through this discussion regards the unity of science. Although the study of science at schools and universities is
organized into different departments for physics, chemistry, biology, and so
on, nature is not so easily categorized.
A single part of nature cannot be studied in isolation. This was eloquently stated by the great
American naturalist and conservationist John Muir:
When one tugs at a single thing in nature,
he finds it hitched to the rest of the universe.
We will see that one cannot understand the largest things in
the universe without understanding the smallest things, and to truly understand
nature on the smallest scales, one has to understand it on the largest scales.
this link between the large and the small the "Inner Space/Outer
Space" connection. In a very real sense,
the largest telescope is also a microscope, and the most powerful microscope is
also a telescope.
Contributed by: Dr. Edward Kolb